Friday, June 5, 2009

What Pride Means to Me

This story, like so many others, begins with my mom. In the extremely long, tortured process of coming out to her, I never had to convince her that being gay is innate. I think she knew about me by the time I was 5 years old. It took some effort, though, to open her eyes to the number of people who are not heterosexual. Every year the Seattle media would cover the Pride parade and Mom would assert that "all those people aren't gay." Sometimes she would follow up with "they just want the special benefits" or "I don't see what there is to be proud about. It's not something they had to earn."

I had my work cut out for me.

Trying to explain what Pride is about to my mother, though, prompted me to dig deeper into my own thoughts about it. Here are some of the things I came up with:

  • Gay Pride is the name of a movement, and movements have to come up with tags, handles and titles for themselves. In my mind, a slightly more accurate title would be Gay non-Shame, but that doesn't have quite the ring to it that we need.
  • Gay Pride also comes from my sense of connection with the gay men, lesbians and other sexually non-conforming people throughout recorded history who have achieved great things. Alexander the Great conquered the world. Sapho's poetry is still studied. Leonardo da Vinci's genius continues to inspire people throughout the world. I reminded my mother that she felt pride for my accomplishments, even though she never took a music lesson in her life.
  • Gay Pride is not just about being gay, but also about having survived being gay in this society. It's something that most straight people never think about since they are surrounded by a world that is slanted toward them. Most gay people are raised by straight people and learn to hate gay people before they know that they're gay. I remember the moment I realized that I was one of those people vividly. I think I was about eight years old. I had already been exposed to plenty of negative stereotypes of gay people both from my family and on TV, and absolutely no positive images.
  • Gay Pride is our chance to be visible for one day a year. Even in today's more progressive society, a child growing up gay even in a city like Seattle, will almost never see affirmative images of gay people. It feels like we're not real; that our lives and experiences are not worthy of inclusion in society. Benign neglect is the term, I believe.
  • Gay Pride is a chance to feel safe for a few hours. Long before I moved to Seattle I would come to the Pride parade just for the sake of having a day without worrying if someone was going to think I was gay and be hostile to me. For gay people living in enemy territory, those few hours are precious and irreplaceable.
  • Gay Pride is the best place to celebrate our progress with our straight allies.

If anyone is interested in coming to Pride this year, you can get all the information here:

1 comment:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Happy Pride, Seumas! There are a lot more affirmative images of our community out there than there used to be, but of course there's still a long way to go. But we'll get there someday, I have no doubt!